Nagoya: groovin’, sightseein’, Bon dancin’ and tea drinkin’…

Presented with the task of showing my mum around my new hometown, Nagoya, I found I actually had quite a long list of places to go and things to do. People really don’t give Nagoya the credit it’s due. I think there’s actually a lot to do here, and it’s a lovely city to live in.

So, last Sunday my mum arrived and we spent the afternoon chilling (well, baking, actually) in Sakae. They had a music event on, called Nagoya Groovin’ Summer, so we sat and listened to the jazz until it all got too much and we had to have some ice cream!

My mum’s jet-lag kicked in pretty early, so we both got some sleep, ready for the sightseeing ahead of us!

On Monday, we explored Sakae a little bit, and I found some sculptures I hadn’t seen before:

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We did some touristy things, including going up the TV Tower and snapping the view. I don’t think I’ll ever tire of taking photos of cities from high places (as you’ll see from my Tokyo photos later!).

That evening, we went to Nagoya Castle for the Obon Matsuri. The castle was open in the evening during Obon. It was a proper Japanese festival, like others I have been to, but what was new for me was the Bon Dancing. Bon Dancing is all about the souls of the dead. It is quite up-tempo music and really fun to watch (and to have a go at from the sidelines!).

Didn’t anyone tell that guy it’s Bon Dance, not Thriller? hehe.

Like many of Japan’s traditions, Bon Dancing seems to be a bit of an old lady hobby. This one looks so happy though!

Oh no, who’d have thought we’d all come wearing the same dress? Hehe. There were lots of what appeared to be groups or teams, all wearing identical yukata.

It really was quite cool to see some traditional dance, and to experience the castle at it’s best, during a festival. There was beer, takoyaki, and even some taiko drummers at the end!

On Tuesday, we spent some time exploring Nagoya Port. This was cool for me, as I had only been there during a very busy festival, and had not yet had a chance to see it properly. We decided not to go to the aquarium as we were both hot and tired, and it was very very busy! Instead we wandered around, taking in the sights.

We had lunch at a curious cafe called Cats Garden, which was very kitsch (although I’m not sure if it was meant to be!).

Inside, the place was crawling with cat statues, and it was very brightly decked out. The desserts were wonderful, and I’d highly recommend it if you’re in the area.

Another Kitty who seems to pop up everywhere, was seen vending popcorn in the vicinity…

Later in the day, we headed to Nagoya Station, to take in the night views from Midland Square

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The next day, Wednesday, we met up with one of my students, Akiko-san, and went to Shirotori Garden and Atsuta Shrine. I might have seen one of both of these before, on my first trip two years ago, but my memory is cloudy so I’m not sure! Anyway, it was very nice, and we even had the chance to take part in a tea ceremony in Shirotori Garden, which was a first for us all. I have drunk tea ceremony tea in a tea-house before, but not actually tried the ceremony. It’s very precise and ritualistic, and I’m not sure I saw the point of all the little turnings of the bowl etc, but it was very interesting to experience.

We were allowed to take photos, but it felt somehow disrespectful so I didn’t like to take too many. It was a very intimate ceremony, just us three and the two ladies performing the ceremony and teaching us. It was all in Japanese, but Akiko-san helped us to understand it better, and a lot was understood through actions.

Look at this beautiful view of Shirotori Garden…

…and then spot the modern building ruining the picture! Unfortunately Japan has a lot of that…

Atsuta Shrine was very peaceful…

My mum and I headed to Osu Kannon Temple in the afternoon, which was completely the opposite of Atsuta Shrine! It was pretty busy and soooo hot!

I think this picture shows the contrasts we can often see in Japan, which I love. We have the flags of Osu Kannon Temple, with some laundry in the background hanging off a tall apartment block…

We had to cool off with some shaved ice…

That evening, we met another friend, Kazue-san, and her husband Hiro-san, and went to a wonderful okonomiyaki restaurant for dinner. it was a pretty jam-packed few days, but I think we did Nagoya proud! And we were ready to set off for Tokyo the next day…

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